The Cure For Guilt

The Cure for Guilt

by Paul Ellis
guilty_manThe other day I lost my temper. It was only for a moment, but it was enough. Damage was done. Later, I felt sick about what I did and took steps to make amends. This is how guilt works. Guilt is a signal that our lives have been disrupted by sin. Guilt is a sign that a hurt needs to be healed.
But there’s a problem.
Ever since sin was given free leash in the Garden of Eden, guilt has gotten out of control. We feel guilty for things we did and didn’t do. When we do well we feel guilty for not doing better. And when we fail, guilt pounds us. Worst of all, guilt never goes away. Like an alarm that won’t switch off, guilt is the soundtrack to our lives.
Burdened by guilt we may turn to religion in the hope of finding relief. Instead, we encounter the condemning ministry of the law. Religion tells us we’re even worse than we thought. We have not only let down friends and family, we’ve let down God.
With religious zeal we try to make the guilt go away but it’s no use. We keep nine laws but break the tenth. We’re good six days a week but stumble on the seventh. No matter how hard we work, the guilt pile just keeps growing.
Guilt is a killer
I am convinced that guilt and condemnation are at the root of many of our health problems. Guilt breaks us. Our emotional bones were made soft for love, not hard for guilt-bearing.
I was a pastor for ten years and I can tell you that a lot of counseling done in the church is guilt-based. Pastors spend the much of their time helping others manage their guilt. Which is ironic since pastors are the ones making folk feel guilty in the first place. (Please don’t feel condemned my preaching brothers! But please stop preaching mixture. It’s making others sick and sucking the life out of you.)
I’m not here to point fingers. We’re talking about the crippling effects of guilt.
If only there was a cure for guilt. There is!
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:22)
Since the cross is God’s cure for your sin, it is also the cure for your guilt. Do you battle with guilt? Then look to the cross. Your sins are there not here.
Cat_in_hatJustified = not guilty
To be guilty means to be held responsible for your sin. I’m all for taking responsibility for our mistakes but when it comes to sin all the responsibility in the world isn’t going to clear your sinful name. Your sin burden is simply too great.
On the cross, Jesus took responsibility for all our sin. He literally became sin and in him all sin was condemned (Rom 8:3). The gospel declares your sin problem has met its match in Jesus Christ.
Do you know what this means?
Under law, the best of us is justly charged guilty of sin. But under grace, the worst of us is justly charged righteous, on account of Jesus (2 Cor 5:21).
This is one of the most profound revelations of grace yet many miss it. They say, “I know I am righteous and justified but I still feel guilty.” Connect the dots. If you are righteous and justified, you are not guilty.
“But, Paul, I feel guilty.” That feeling is a symptom of unbelief in the goodness of God. Don’t let that feeling run around like a rat in the attic. Deal with it. Take that feeling and make it bow to the obedience of Christ.
He has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. (Col 2:13-14, Phillips)
Under the law, there was a long list of charges against you. “You’re a lazy Christian, a lousy parent, and a poor excuse for a human being.” Want to know what Jesus thinks of those charges against you? He nailed them to the cross. Don’t agree with those charges. Agree with Jesus!
Guilt from the Bible?
Many Christians battle with guilt because they’ve not fully grasped the finished work of the cross. They’re filtering life through the obsolete lens of the rule-keeping covenant.
Guilt is what you get when you are constantly told you are not doing enough, giving enough, praying enough. Since this mixed-up message is the predominant theme of graceless Christianity, is it any wonder guilt has become an epidemic?
Much of what gets done in the name of the Lord is motivated by guilt. “Jesus died for you, what will you do for him?” Crumbs. I’d better roll up my sleeves and get busy. “There are people going to hell because you are not evangelizing. Sign up for our outreach and make your guilt go away.” It’s appalling. It’s manipulation of the worst kind and it is about as far from Jesus as you can get.
Making matters worse, many of our Bibles were translated by the guilt-conscious. Do you know how many times the words “guilt” and “guilty” appear in the New Testament? The answer depends on which Bible you’re reading:
2 Young’s Literal Translation
3 American Standard Version
6 King James
13 Message Bible
16 New International Version
34 Good News
45 Amplified
What do these numbers mean? They reveal how much guilt is in your reading diet. For instance, if you read the NIV you’re getting nearly triple the guilt that you’d get from the KJV. If you read the Amplified, you’re getting nearly eight times.
Some Bibles should come with a health-warning: “Contains added guilt and traces of religious nuts.”
I looked up all the Greek words for “guilt” and “guilty” in Vines and found there are very few. In fact, Vines spends more time listing words that have been incorrectly translated as guilty. I won’t bore you with the details of my study but here’s an interesting question:
Do you know how many verses there are that say Christians are guilty?
Answer: Zero. Nada. Not one. So the next time you hear a message that makes you feel guilty – that seeks to hold you accountable for something you’ve done or not done – you can safely reject it as unbiblical.
When I lost my temper the other day, I apologized and quickly made amends. There was nothing religious about that. It’s just love. It’s common sense. But dead religion would’ve said, “Paul, you’ve not done enough. Every sin is a sin against God. On account of your sin you are now out of fellowship with him. You broke it, so you fix it. Examine your heart, confess your sin before God and he will wipe your slate clean.”
Such a message appeals to our religious flesh but it’s an anti-Christ and anti-cross pile of manure. Instead of leading you back to the one you hurt, it’ll cause you to withdraw and stare at your navel. Instead of thanking God that in Christ you are always righteous, you’ll waste time asking him to do what he’s already done. Instead of laying hold of the grace that empowers you to sin no more, you’ll beat yourself up like a religious flagellant.
(If you think I’m against confession, I’m not. And if you want to write in and tell me about 1 John 1:9, read this first.)
Learn the new language of grace
Guilt may be the lingua franca of dead religion but it wasn’t a language the New Testament writers spoke. It’s certainly not a language they speak in heaven. If you speak the faithless language of guilt, may I suggest you learn the new language of God’s love and grace.
When you have seen the finished work of the cross, it changes the way you look at your mistakes and failings. You no longer dwell on your weaknesses – there’s no power there. Instead, you fix your eyes on Jesus who was “delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom 4:25).
ImperfectionsWhen you sin, the accuser will seek to bring a case against you. And in the eyes of the flawless law, he has a good case! However, the issue is not whether you have stumbled but whether Jesus has been raised. If he has been raised then you have been justified. Case dismissed.
It takes no faith to look at your mistakes and condemn yourself. It takes faith to look at Christ and say, “Because of you, I have been judged not guilty for all time. Thank you, Jesus!”

Related posts:
– Shipwrecked faith
– What makes Jesus sick?
– Seven signs that you’re living under law

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Reading The Bible Narcissistically

Reading The Bible Narcissistically

We often read the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us: our improvement, our life, our triumph, our victory, our faith, our holiness, our marriages, our money, our children. And it does talk about those things. But is the Bible fundamentally about us?

In my experience, most people treat the Bible like a book of timeless principles that will give us our best life now if we simply apply those principles. We treat it, in other words, like it’s a heaven-sent self-help manual. But by looking at the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us, we totally miss the Point–like the two on the road to Emmaus.

As Luke 24 shows, it’s possible to read the Bible, study the Bible, memorize large portions of the Bible–even listen to “expository” preachers who are committed to preaching “verse by verse, line by line, precept by precept”–while missing the whole point of the Bible. It’s entirely possible, in other words, to read the stories and miss the Story. In fact, unless we go to the Bible to see Jesus and his work for us, even our devout Bible reading can become fuel for our own narcissistic self-improvement plans, the place we go for the help we need to “conquer today’s challenges and take control of our lives.”

Contrary to popular assumptions, the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. That’s not a typo. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people. Far from being a book full of moral heroes to emulate, what we discover is that the so-called heroes in the Bible are not really heroes at all. They fall and fail, they make huge mistakes, they get afraid, their selfish, deceptive, egotistical, and unreliable. The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with his rescue; our sin with his salvation; our failure with his favor; our guilt with his grace; our badness with his goodness.

So, if we read the Bible asking first, “What would Jesus do?” instead of asking “What has Jesus done?” we’ll miss the good news that alone can set us free.

As I’ve said before, the overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. Which means that the Bible is not first a recipe book for Christian living, but a revelation book of Jesus who is the answer to our unchristian living.

Tullian Tchavidjian is Billy Grahams grandson, and declares the riches of Jesus to the humble and hungry of heart….

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Self Esteem in Troubled Times –

Lifetime Ministries

Self Esteem in Troubled Times – Part 2

Image result for images of a solid rock

Psychology has discovered three needs of man that must be satisfied if we are to enjoy contentment—a sense of belonging, personal worth, and competency. Both psychology and the world offer their solutions, but God says that Jesus is the Source of all things.

BELONG: The only sense of belonging that will never be eroded by the world is knowing unequivocally that I belong to my Creator. I am accepted by my Spiritual Dad; I’m a ten with Him (Rom. 15:7)! The only unfailing peace I can experience is knowing my Father (not self) has everything under control. That’s what Jesus knew about His Father-Son relationship as He volunteered for the cross.

In addition, I am Christ’s beloved bride! I’ll never be a worn out old wife who’s cast aside for a young chick. I belong! The world may reject me, I may be wounded, but I won’t be KO’d as long as I believe that I belong. The time to practice this is now (Heb. 5:14). I mustn’t wait until the bottom falls out. I belong to the One who loves me most and who has all the power. Think about that one.

WORTH: What am I worth? Jesus wouldn’t flash a financial statement to answer this question about Himself, so neither should I. The value of anything (to a purchaser) is determined by what he’s willing to pay for it. The Living God bought me. He could’ve bid a used dumpster for me and bid North America for Billy Graham if He’d wished because He can do what He wants. After all, Billy lives in a tall, handsome earthsuit and reaches millions for Jesus, but this is the wrong perception. God offered the only Boy He had to purchase me. He gave the Apple of His eye, His only Namesake! That’s Who God spent to purchase me. Oh, I tell you, I have great value. To God, I’m worth Jesus!

Picture a balance scale with Jesus on one end and me on the other. My worth and Jesus’ worth are equal in God’s mind. There’s a worth that can never erode! I may lose my job through health or economic reversals. My retirement program may collapse. I may lose my family, house, car, prestige, or be disgraced. Will that lower my true value? Never! My worth is set in Eternal Concrete.

COMPETENCY: I have the same opportunity to demonstrate competency as every Christian, even the heavy-hitters. I can offer myself to Jesus to glorify God through me by living His life of service to my spouse, kids, and world. Regardless of where God puts me, I know that the Judge of the universe evaluates my competency according to my faith-in-Christ method, not according to my results.

There are two sources available to you. You can build your self-esteem on the shifting sands of self and your personal accomplishments (or lack thereof), or you can build upon the Solid Rock—Jesus—offering yourself to Christ so that He may express His life through you. Choose Jesus–your only secure Investment.

Authored by: Dr. Bill Gillham

Recent Featured Articles:

Self Esteem in Troubled Times – Part 1
Good Enough
Remember the Sabbath
20 Ways to Love Your Wife
A New Year – A New Identity – A New Way of Thinking


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Happy Valentine’s Day gift

Happy Valentines to you, all you dear Family and Friends! This is a new favorite quote from a book I am reading right by Steve Brown. Steve is one of Tullian Tchavidjian’s (Billy Grahams’ Grandson) personal mentors, and now one of mine through his books – delicious good real Life stuff! I share these pages with you as my Valentine gift to you each today.

May you have a most blessed, deLightful Valentine’s Day! Love and Hugs to you, Lynn

1. Caution – The first lie that comes from the pit of hell and smells like smoke is caution. There is no question that the Bible warns and admonishes believers to be careful about some things. In fact, the laws of God weren’t given to keep us from doing nasty things. The law, among other things, tells Christians where the minefields are in life. God, who loves us, shows us the way we should walk if we want to keep from getting blown up. The law, properly understood, is one of the most wonderful and precious gifts God has given his people. When I speak, I often say that I like to give some takeaway value to those who are listening but aren’t Christians: if you want to be happier and better off than you are, find out what the Bible says and live by it as much as you can. “I personally don’t care,” I will often say, “if you believe in God or think the Bible is true. I’m not your mother. But if you do what I tell you, you’ll rise up and call me ‘blessed’ for having told you.” How could I say something like that? The Bible tells us the way things work, and the law of God tells us the places where we need to be careful so we don’t get hurt. But with all of that said, our Christian caution is killing us. If I hear one more time that we have to be careful with this “grace thing” because people will take advantage of it, I’m going to use some very unclergylike language. That’s like telling a baby we have to be careful about food or he or she will take advantage of it; refusing to tell an heir about a million- dollar inheritance because we’re afraid he or she will take advantage of it; or being careful about education because students will take advantage of it. I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “God loves you! But don’t let it go to your head!”

What’s with that? Of course you should let it go to your head. If God loves you and it doesn’t go to your head, you just haven’t understood. If the God of the universe really likes you, that ought to put everything else into perspective. It should make you laugh and dance with great joy. It might even cause those who don’t understand to say about you what they said about the apostles (see Acts 2:13)— that you are plastered. If the God of the universe really likes you, that ought to put everything else into perspective. If you’re forgiven all your sins— past, present, and future— (and if you’re a Christian, that’s exactly what has happened), if you’re going to live forever (and you are), and if you’ve discovered that the meaning of life isn’t what you do but who you are (a beloved child of God), how are you going to take advantage of it? Maybe sin? Maybe say the wrong thing? Maybe be inappropriate? So? You were already sinning, you have probably on several occasions said the wrong thing, and who hasn’t done inappropriate stuff before? Are we supposed to come to Christ and then become zombies or automatons where God pulls the strings? Of course not. When you come to Christ and know that you’re forgiven, the first thing you ought to experience is a freedom that you’ve never known before. It’s the freedom of being accepted exactly where you are without any requirement except your coming to him. If I were the devil, I would try to keep you from ever seeing that. You think?

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Looking Up, Not In

I’ve been preaching for twenty years and, to be honest, I’m so embarrassed by many of the sermons I preached early on. I wish I could go back and apologize to all the people who heard them. My primary concern at that time was to get people to do more, try harder, live radically for God, and change. The end result was stunted spiritual growth for our people because I was causing them to fix their eyes on themselves rather than on Christ.

Eugene Peterson has wisely said that “discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own.” The way many of us think about sanctification is, well, not very sanctified. In fact, it’s terribly narcissistic. We spend too much time thinking about how we’re doing, if we’re growing, whether we’re doing it right or not. We spend too much time pondering our spiritual failures and brooding over our spiritual successes.

Ironically, I’ve discovered that the more I focus on my need to get better, the worse I actually get—I become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our performance over Christ’s performance for us actually hinders spiritual growth because it makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective—the exact opposite of how the Bible describes what it means to be sanctified. Sanctification is forgetting about yourself. As J. C. Kromsigt said, “The good seed cannot flourish when it is repeatedly dug up for the purpose of examining its growth.”

In those early early days, I was treating the Bible like it was a heaven-sent self-help manual. The fact is, that unless we go to the Bible to see Jesus and his work for us, even our devout Bible reading can become fuel for our own self-improvement plans, the place we go for the help we need to “conquer today’s challenges and take control of our lives.”

What I’ve learned since those days is that the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people. The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with his rescue; our sin with his salvation; our failure with his favor; our guilt with his grace; our badness with his goodness.

So, if we read (or preach) the Bible asking first, “What would Jesus do?” instead of asking “What has Jesus done” we’ll miss the good news that alone can set us free. Evangelicals desperately need to recover the truth that the overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. This means that the Bible is not first a recipe book for Christian living, but a revelation book of Jesus who is the answer to our unchristian living.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” Jn 5:39,40

– Tullian, grandson of Billy Graham, is presently pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Coral Ridge FL, Dr. James Kennedy’s church before his Home going. Dr. Kennedy created the Evangelism Explosion program that rocked the world with Jesus. Tullian continues that rich Gospel legacy.

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Beware the Frankenfruit

John 15:6 – Abiding in the Vine (vs. frankenfruit)

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (Jn 15:6)

What does it mean to abide in the vine?

You need to have a good answer to that question because Jesus warned that there are consequences for not abiding in the vine. He also said that those who do abide in the vine will bear much fruit:

“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” (Jn 15:4)

Many people interpret the words of Jesus as carrots and sticks. They think, if I fail to abide I will be cast out and burned, but if I do abide I will bear much fruit, so I’d better start bearing fruit. Read it like this and Jesus’ words will become a law for you: produce or perish! And that’s going to be a problem because the fruit Jesus is looking for you can’t produce. Apart from Him the only thing you can produce is Frankenfruit!

In this short series on the commands of Jesus, we have seen that Jesus expects us to do impossible things, namely, He expects us to do the same works He did and greater works still. Happily, He has promised that we will do these impossible things because He is in us and we are branches to His vine. Unfruitful branches are not chopped off, but are lifted up out of the dirt. This lifting up and the bearing of fruit in us is something that He does. So far, so good.

But what does it mean to abide or remain in Him? That sounds as if Jesus is putting conditions on us. It sounds like He is saying, you have to do something otherwise you’ll be tossed and burned. But what is the something we must do? I guarantee you that any list of somethings that man comes up with will include keep short accounts with God or confess your sins. This is a classic example of watering down scripture to accommodate human shortcomings. You want something to do? Try this:

“Whoever abides in Him does not sin.” (1 Jn 3:6, NKJV)

What does God expect of those who abide in Him? Zero sin! Yet many people believe, “whoever abides in Him may sin occasionally – after all, we’re only human – but as long as we quickly confess our sin God will be faithful and just and forgive us our sin.” Well God is faithful and just but you can’t use His goodness to wriggle out of 1 John 3:6. You can’t lower His standards to accommodate your less-than-perfect performance.

A line in the sand

I occasionally get emails from people who are opposed to the gospel of grace. They say we must do everything in the Bible or at least everything that Jesus says. Well Jesus said, “be perfect” (Mt 5:8) – how’s that working out for you? I might just as easily respond with the words of John:

“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 Jn 3:6, NIV)

I love this! This verse deals life to those who trust Jesus and utter condemnation to those who don’t. It draws a big fat line in the sand and shouts, “Choose your Savior!” To those who are trusting in their own good behavior this verse declares, “Your best is not good enough. God expects sinless perfection.” Either you must be perfect or you must put your faith in a perfect, representative. Guess who! Jesus is our perfect High Priest (Heb 7:28)! We stand on His sinless performance, not our own.

A promise, not a condition

Jesus told the disciples, you are in me (our imperfections are hidden in His perfection) and I am in you (we carry His sinless DNA). Jesus didn’t sin and He won’t ever sin. If you let Him live His life through you, then without any conscious effort on your part you’re going to start talking and acting just like sinless Jesus. This is a glorious promise for all who believe:

“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (1 Jn 3:9)

So what does it mean to abide in the vine? Here’s the answer we’ve all been waiting for…

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 Jn 4:15)

Have you confessed that Jesus is the Son of God? Then God abides in you and you in Him. You may wonder, But how did this happen? All I did was confess. Well you could not have believed and confessed Jesus as Lord unless the Holy Spirit had led you to do so (1 Cor 12:3). The work and the glory are all His. Rest in that!

The trouble is, you can’t rest because somewhere inside there is a little voice that’s asking, Can I abide today and not abide tomorrow? Can I be in the vine one moment and cut off the next? Why would Jesus tell his disciples to abide if there wasn’t any danger of not abiding?

The problem, as usual, is found between our ears. Most of us have grown up with a slave mentality that says our value is determined by what we do. This was certainly true of the disciples who had been born and bred under the law. They were conditioned to think in terms of their performance. This works mindset is also evident in some of our English translations:

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (Jn 15:4, NIV)

Again, that sounds like a condition. It sounds like Jesus is saying, if your abiding performance is up to scratch, then I will reward you by abiding as well. But it is not a condition to make us sweat; it is a promise to make us rest. In John 15 Jesus goes to great lengths to counter the law-mentality of the disciples. He does this by hitting them with promise after promise:

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (Jn 15:9)

How does the Father love Jesus? Ask yourself this question: How many miracles or works had Jesus done when the Father declared from heaven, “this is my beloved Son?” None! The Father loves Jesus unconditionally, without any reference to His performance or fruit. That means that Jesus loves us unconditionally! He wants us to rest in His unconditional love.

You’re free? Be free!

Just to recap – if you think abiding is something we must do, then understand that the evidence of abiding is zero sin. This is humanly impossible. The only logical response to the command “abide!” is to trust in Jesus and His performance and quit trying to impress Him with yours. The word “abide” connotes “rest” and “surrender,” not “struggle” and “try harder.”

Trust God, the abiding issue is all settled from His side. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him.” But it may not be settled from your side. You may still be struggling with that old servant mentality. Instead of rest there is insecurity. Instead of joy there is anxiety. Am I in? Can I be cut off? If this is you, let Jesus speak to your insecurity:

“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn 8:34-36)

The reality is, you are free indeed because Jesus has set you free. The reality is, you are abiding in the vine because you have confessed Him as Lord. But you may not be experiencing that reality. You may feel like you’re not free or you’re not abiding. Although you are a son with a permanent place in the family, you may still think and act like the slave that you used to be. There’s only one solution: renew your mind! Stop living by feelings and start walking by faith. You are abiding in fact, so start abiding in practice.

When Jesus said, “anyone who does not abide in Me is cast out as a branch, withers, and is thrown into the fire,” He was not referring to fruitless Christians. (They are lifted up.) He was describing those who refuse to believe to that He is the Son of God. He was describing those who are looking for life outside of the true vine. If you have confessed Jesus as your Lord, then walk in that the truth: You are free, God Himself abides in you, and as a son or daughter you have a permanent place in His family. Thank you Jesus!

by Paul Ellis 64 Comments (don’t miss the comments and Paul’s responses, as they are as good as his article!)


What Happens to Unfruitful Branches? –

The Commands of Jesus, John 14:15 : since God loves us unconditionally, how do we account for those scriptures that link our love for Him with our obedience, like this one: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15) – –

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Healthy Faith

“The man who has faith is the man who is no longer looking at himself and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he once was. He does not look at what he is now. He does not even look at what he hopes to be as the result of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, and rests on that (HIM!) alone

Martin Lloyd Jones, one of Jesus’ most effective preachers of the Gospel of God’s Grace this century – hundreds would rush forward to come to Jesus whenever he preached, and he didn’t give altar calls! These are two quotes by Martin that Tullian quoted in his blog of June 2014

“There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than the fact that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this–that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do, that you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will abound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.” ~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Why is the Christian life so simple? …why would it be that merely making Jesus the focus of life gives such abundance? Because man cannot, in a healthy condition, think of two things at once. When a multiple focus is attempted, man becomes in some ways a schizophrenic, divided and ineffective. Therefore, we must make one thing our focus and narrow our choices to two topics, self or Christ. God has placed all we need in one thing, that being Christ, so in making Him our focus, we will be healthy. I personally, in thousands of hours of discipling, have never found a happy person who was immersed in examining the thousands of combinations and manifestations that the flesh of man is capable of presenting. Yet peace exudes from those who have made Christ their focus. Heavenly discipleship uses every occasion, problem, personal failure, circumstance, want or instance of anxiety and depression to point a person to Christ. In making Him the focus, all else grows strangely dim and the awareness that believer is more than a conqueror becomes a reality. …In our relationship with Christ, fifteen minutes in fellowship with Him brings divine sanity…” from pg 204-206 Heavenly Discipleship, by Mike Wells


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What is the Greater Condemnation? Green Eggs and Ham Jesus style –

New post on Escape to Reality

What is the Greater Condemnation? (Matthew 23:14)

by Paul Ellis

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. (Matthew 23:14, NKJV)

What is the “greater condemnation” Jesus spoke of? It must be something because it’s mentioned in three gospels – this one and Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. But what is it? (Before you read on, why not try to answer this question for yourself?)

Is Jesus saying there are degrees of judgment and that the Pharisees and hypocrites are going to get punished more than others? You might think so if you read his words in other translations:

  • “You will be punished more severely.” (NIV)
  • “You will receive the heavier sentence.” (AMP)
  • “Ye shall receive the greater damnation.” (KJV)

The traditional view of damnation is eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. Since Pharisees and hypocrites are fixing for a greater damnation, does that mean the Lake of Fire has a particularly hot end and these poor souls will suffer in it for eternity plus an extra 20 years? That’s ridiculous.

So what is the greater condemnation?

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

Condemnation, or judgment, is not something that only happens at Judgment Day. Condemnation is what you have now when you refuse to enjoy God’s love and grace. In Christ, there is no condemnation. Outside of Christ, there is plenty.

We weren’t designed to live alone. Choose the path of self-reliance and yours will be a limited and inferior life (see Jer. 17:5-6). This has nothing to do with divine punishment and everything to do with sowing and reaping. Sow to the flesh and you reap corruption (Gal. 6:8). We simply do not have it within ourselves to live the abundant life we were made for. Left to our own devices, even our best efforts will lead to dissatisfaction, discontentment, and destruction.

Bet on yourself and you cannot win; bet on Jesus and you cannot lose

Jesus said the one who refuses to believe has made up his mind. He has made his final judgment (krino) and it is a negative one (krima) with bad consequences. From this we can identify two kinds of unbeliever:

  1. Ignorant unbeliever – hasn’t heard the gospel and doesn’t know God loves her
  2. Hard-hearted unbeliever – has heard the gospel and knows about God, but has rejected him

Reflecting on his early life as a blasphemer and violent man, the apostle Paul said, “I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). Paul, who was formerly known as Saul, thought of himself as a God-fearing man. But when Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus, he realized he didn’t really know anything about God. He was the first kind of unbeliever – the ignorant kind.

In contrast, the Pharisees who scorned Jesus were the second kind. They met the Son of God in person and heard him proclaim the good news of the kingdom, yet they rejected him. They mocked him, they hated him, and they tried to kill him. These guys weren’t agnostics. They were murderers and abusive men (Matt. 23:34). They were the original nose-punching preachers. Not only did they refuse to enter the kingdom of heaven, but they hindered others from entering as well (Matt. 23:13).

Every unbeliever is either like Saul (ignorant and unaware of God’s goodness) or like the Pharisees (hard-hearted and violently opposed to it). But here’s the thing: we all start out like Saul.

Saul was shown mercy because he acted in ignorance. God doesn’t show mercy only to some people but to all people, because every one of us is ignorant until we hear the good news. “The grace of God that brings salvation (i.e., Jesus) has appeared to all men” (Tit 2:11).

God loves the Pharisee and the hypocrite as much as he loves Saul. But they don’t love him back. His grace is for everyone, but not everyone receives it. Although God does not discriminate, we do. We judge ourselves by our response to Jesus.

Two kinds of condemnation

Since there are two kinds of unbeliever there are two kinds of condemnation – a lesser and a greater. This condemnation does not come from God but from our unbelieving hearts (1 John 3:20) and the law (2 Cor. 3:9).

What is the lesser condemnation? It is the condemnation or self-imposed judgment that is overturned by grace. Think of Saul, living wretchedly under the law, trying to do his best for the Lord. On the road to Damascus he encountered God’s grace and was set free from condemning religion. He became proof of Jesus’ words that, “Whoever believes in me is not condemned.”

What is the greater condemnation? It is the condemnation that resists grace and denies the Lord. Think of the self-righteous Pharisees who hated Jesus and plotted to kill him. They received the heavenly rain, but produced thorns and thistles. They insulted the Spirit of grace and trampled the Son of God underfoot. They pushed the word of God away and judged themselves unworthy of life (Acts 13:46).

An ignorant unbeliever may yet receive grace, but a hard-hearted unbeliever cannot receive it. Why not? Because grace has already been offered and rejected. It has been tasted and spat out. The condemnation of the Pharisee and the hypocrite is greater because it is resistant to grace. Having heard the gospel and spurned it they are without hope, because there is no other gospel.

Ultimately, everyone responds to Jesus. Some respond like Saul and join the party; others respond like the Pharisees and remain outside in the darkness of their stubborn unbelief.

The condemnation of the ignorant is lesser because it is temporary. It is the predawn haze of a passing night. When the sun rises, poof!, it’s gone.

But the condemnation of the hard-hearted is like concrete. It’s as hard as the soil of their unbelieving hearts. The condemnation of the hypocrite and pretender is greater, not because there are degrees to God’s judgment or because he hates them. He doesn’t! Their condemnation is greater because their stubborn minds are not easily changed.

sam-i-amGreen eggs and grace

Let’s say I offer you a plate of green eggs and ham, and you have never tried green eggs and ham. Do you like green eggs and ham? You cannot know until you have tried them. So you may try them. But if you have tried them and disliked them – hated them in fact – then you will never try them again.

It’s the same with Jesus. The Bread of Heaven is infinitely better than green eggs and ham and it is difficult for me to understand how anyone could reject him, yet some do. The Pharisees did and so did Judas. Jesus spent years with these guys. He gave them countless opportunities to receive from him yet they never did.

What does this mean for you?

Some who are confused about grace have turned the words of Jesus into cattle-prods. They say, “Beware the greater condemnation that falls on those who fail to perform.” I hope you can see now that the greater condemnation does not apply to those who are in Christ. Nor does it apply to those who have never heard of him.

Jesus didn’t come to condemn but to save. The greater condemnation is not a Big Stick he uses to whack those who fail to deliver results. The greater condemnation is the self-inflicted judgment some bring on themselves by hardening their hearts to his love and grace.


Paul Ellis | June 12, 2014 at 12:01 am | Categories: Bible puzzles, judgment | URL:

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Acknowledging Failure Is A Virtue

Tullian Tchividjian

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Wrestling Rest

 By: Artie Sposaro

I started wrestling in junior high school. I learned quickly that it’s not easy to walk out on a mat all alone and wrestle another person. It’s easy for fear and panic to get the best of you. This being said, I did okay those first years with a few basic moves and brute strength. When I got to high school this method would no longer work. I had to learn to wrestle well if I was going to win…or even survive.

Wrestling in everyday life reflects my Jr. high wrestling experience. It takes courage to step out to take on life. It’s easy to let fear and panic get the best of us. We wrestle our anxieties, and by using a few basic moves and brute strength we get by. But this is no way to live. We recognize that to thrive in life we’ve got to get better at wrestling.

I had great wrestling coaches in high school. I got better at wrestling by listening and responding to my coaches. More specifically, I did well because I learned to rest. By rest I don’t mean being lazy. I mean rest as relaxed trust. I dropped my fear and panic and learned to trust my coaches and my God-given abilities. During matches I wrestled and listened carefully to my coaches simultaneously. I trusted them and all that I had learned from them.

Many of us don’t realize that God desires for us to rest. God wants us to trust him completely. He provides us his Spirit to teach, coach, and empower us as we wrestle whatever we face in life. We’re not meant to live in fear and panic. God longs for us to rest in him. As a matter of fact, he commands it. Anything else is disobedience.

You may remember the biblical telling of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. They were bound for a Promised Land, a land of milk and honey. When they came to the edge of the land that God said was theirs for the taking, they sent twelve spies inside to check it out. Ten spies returned frightened by the prospects of entering the land. To the contrary, Caleb and Joshua trusted in God’s promised rest and lobbied for entry. Refusing to rest in God’s promise, the Israelites turned back to the wilderness where they roamed for another forty years. Tragic.

The writer of Hebrews revisits this ordeal in light of God’s doings through Jesus. He tells the Hebrews to make every effort– be diligent, eager … to enter God’s rest. Trust God with everything as a way of life. Anything else mirrors the disobedience of the Israelites, a waywardness that leads to wilderness wandering.

We are meant to wrestle at rest. When I wrestled I was exerting myself completely but also at rest. I was fully engaged with my opponent and tuned in to my coaches’ voices. Notably, the word rest resides in the center of the word wrestle. Whatever the landscape of our life, it is a Promised Land. He lives, moves, and has life within us. In every location God implores us to listen, respond, and rest. Walk forward into the land with peace rather than panic.

God encourages you to wrestle to rest. Shuck anything that prevents you from trusting God with everything. Rest is God’s gift to you. It’s your birthright. Don’t let life or your need to control everything steal your rest! The Spirit of the living God wrestles for you, through you, so you can rest in Him.

“Faith is a refusal to panic.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones


 re-posted from

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